Understanding the socio-political implications of this technological revolution requires examining not only what we imagine drones can do, but how drones themselves function as an imaginary of society.
Drones—pilotless or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—have existed since the early twentieth century, but their presence became transformational in the twenty-first century, when they facilitated the surveillance and identification of suspects, as well as practices of ‘targeted killing’ from a distance, in the ‘War on Terror’. Today, drones are present in multiple facets of contemporary life, deployed in fields as wide-ranging as journalism, humanitarian relief, agriculture, and hobbyist photography. How is this technology with military origins becoming civilianized, and what lessons can be drawn from the militarization of everyday life? What legal, geopolitical, and cultural worlds do drones create or curtail? How do drones engender different ways of embodying that which is distant and inaccessible, or re-vision that which is close and familiar? How do they affect the way one encounters and interprets the human and more-than-human worlds?
Understanding the socio-political implications of this technological revolution requires examining not only what we imagine drones can do, but how drones themselves function as an imaginary of society. In social and cultural criticism, ‘imaginary’ is a flexible term that refers to the values, symbols, and institutions through which a group of people imagine their social whole. Imaginaries mediate collective life and shape the way we live because they are ‘instrumental and futuristic: they project visions of what is good, desirable and worth attaining for a political community; they articulate feasible futures’ (Jasanoff and Kim, 123). Foregrounding imaginaries and aesthetics as key to understanding the normative and ethical elements of drone technology, the project’s long-term goal is to improve regulations and norms around its use: to understand and shape drone futures.
Find out more at the Centre website: